Home Air F-22 Raptor pilots trialing US Air Force’s next-generation helmet

F-22 Raptor pilots trialing US Air Force’s next-generation helmet

Photo: US Air Force

The US Air Force’s Next Generation Fixed Wing Helmet (NGFWH) is undergoing developmental flight tests overseen by engineers from the 46th and 28th Test Squadrons, with F-22A Raptor pilots testing the new, lighter, and better-equipped helmet.

LIFT Airborne Technologies was selected by the US Air Force in April last year as the preferred contractor for the prototype development of a NGFWH helmet that aims to improve pilot longevity, optimize aircraft technology, and address long-term neck and back injuries, following a search initiated by the Air Combat Command (ACC) for a better-fitted helmet to meet the needs of diverse aircrews.

The pilots provide feedback on wearability, visibility, communication, and other aspects of the NGFWH after each flight, which the engineers compile and share with the manufacturers; to date, the feedback has been positive with only minor tweaks required.

The HGU-55 helmet has been in use for over 40 years.

“The legacy helmet was not originally designed to support advances in aircraft helmet-mounted display systems, causing pilots to fly with equipment not optimized for them, especially our female aircrew,” said Scott Cota, ACC Plans and Requirements branch aircrew flight equipment program analyst, after ACC initiated the search for a next-generation helmet.

The NGFWH also benefits aircrew flight equipment technicians who prepare and maintain the helmets. The NGFWH comes with standard features such as night-vision goggle mounts and an adjustable occipital basket, unlike the HGU-55, which required manual addition of these features.

“The design of the helmet allows for unparalleled visibility, mobility, and comfort in the cockpit,” said Maj. Brett Gedman, from the 301st Fighter Squadron. “The increased visibility combined with the mobility it provides made it a massive improvement over what I am used to flying with.  It is clear this has been a generational leap in technology that the fighter pilot deserves, which is long overdue.”

After the Raptor squadrons depart from Eglin for Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, test engineers will continue the developmental testing with new pilots, and eventually, the testing will extend to other aircraft and aircrew.

The HC-130J and B-1B Lancer are the next aircraft types scheduled to undergo testing with the new helmets.